Jeremy Julian

167. Takorean Transcript

January 26, 2023

41:31

Owner: Jeremy Julian

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

food truck, food, places, korean food, people, restaurant, truck, korean, dc, area, mortar, years, concept, franchise, business, bit, pandemic, brick, longtime listeners, operators

SPEAKERS

Mike (66%), Jeremy (33%), Intro (1%) 

I

Intro

0:02

This is the restaurant technology guys podcast, helping you run your restaurant better.

JJ

Jeremy Julian

0:13

Welcome back to the restaurant technology guys podcast. Thank you to our audience out there for the continued support over the years. It’s been fun continuing to do these, these episodes and get feedback from you guys on social media. And when I see you guys at trade shows, So never be afraid to reach out if you guys have guests that you guys would want to have on or topics that you guys want to make sure that I cover. It’s always fun to talk to restaurant operators restaurant technologist about what’s resonating most with you guys. Today we have a very special guest. Not that all of them are special. But you guys know, longtime listeners know that I love to talk to restaurant operators, and especially entrepreneurs that have created something that didn’t exist before. And today is one of those days. I am talking to the founder of talk Korean, Mike Leonard, I believe is how you say his last name. Mike, why don’t you say hi to our audience, tell them a little bit about who you are. And then we can talk a little bit about Tucker in and where it came from. Yeah, thanks, Jeremy. As you said, I’m Mike, I started talk Korea and out of a Ford food truck in 2010. So it’s been actually we’re about to go into year 13 now.

ML

Mike Lenard

1:20

And so after a year or two, we kind of converted into fast casual.

ML

Mike Lenard

1:25

A few years later, we actually sees the food truck operations. But we grew as a fast casual concept over the next 12 years. And it’s been a real wild journey, you know?

ML

Mike Lenard

1:39

But So also what we do is we have It’s Korean food with a Latin American twist. It’s sort of Korean ask. And it’s tacos rice bowls, and slob bowls, which are salads. Very cool. Very cool. So why don’t you give our audience a little bit of a background? Where Where did food service come into your world? Have you always been a food service guy? Did you start working in restaurants in high school or college? Did you just see a See something you really liked and said, Dude, I need some of this. Let me i It’s always intriguing to me to hear restaurant owners, where did it come from? And then really, we’ll get into why Korean food but but just for yourself? Have you always been a restaurant guy? And you’re working for somebody else? Or you know, a little bit about the story? No, I came from retail. So in my early career, I was doing specialty outdoor retail at

ML

Mike Lenard

2:31

you know, places like REI, not Rei specifically. And I became a you know, relatively upper level manager at a couple of companies. And, and, you know, I was pretty young at the time too. But I was always intrigued by food. I obviously got kind of leadership and operational know how from from my previous career in retail, and I was also a big outdoors person and, you know, really liked to recreate recreate outdoors. And so when I I did a couple of stints in college where I worked at a restaurant, but I was never aligned cook I was never a lifer or anything like that. So when I decided to start the food truck it was I was really into food. I was on eBay one day, and I was bidding on on this truck. It was actually like $4,100 It hadn’t been built out as a food truck yet. It was just the step fan, you know. And I want it and I didn’t expect to win it. I was like, oh, man, okay, let me figure this out. It was a it was actually on the Jersey Shore. So my dad drove me up to the Jersey Shore to get the truck. And, you know, I guess the rest is history. I mean, it actually took a while to get it open. It was you know, we had to spend $30,000 Getting it outfitted with the kitchen and and there were all kinds of problems. And the thing is, frankly, I mean, I probably rebuild the engine twice, you know, just to stay on the road in the early years. That’s when I would do my ski vacations like well, the trucks gonna be in the shop for two weeks. So I guess I’ll go outside again, you know, or skiing or backpacking or whatever. So So yeah, that’s that was the original story. I was interested in getting into food in terms of Korean food. You know, there’s in Washington, DC, even there’s Korean community and a lot of restaurants in Annandale, Virginia. And I really fell in love with a lot of that food. I was also following the trends, like some food trucks and Korean taco concepts out of California. And I just was really intrigued, I think that our food is is a little bit different than those. But the idea of that type of fusion really connected with me and I just thought that that was the type of thing that Washingtonians you know, didn’t have enough of right and Washington we’ve seen in generals had a major arc over the last 15 years. Even in the last five and 10 years. There’s these kind of three phases where it used to be A hot food bar lunch town and you know steakhouse dinner town. And now there’s a, you know, a huge diversity in food options at multiple price points. And it’s really established I think as a as a top Food City. So you know, all those things went into, you know how I concept that everything and how I positioned to launch. Also at that time in Washington, DC food trucks were wildly, there was like 10 food trucks like I might have been the eighth food truck, right. And then, you know, years it was like three foreign food trucks. So I was I guess I’d say I was lucky. I mean, from a PR standpoint, I mean, I sent a press release out, and no PR company, I just sent it out, send it out to like 12 places, I got written up in 20. Places, right? It was just food trucks.

JJ

Jeremy Julian

5:52

It certainly was the hot thing back then. So I don’t I don’t know that I expected to hear the the the I bought a food truck on eBay. 300 miles away from where I lived. And now I decided to be in that business. Like, I guess Tell me a little bit more about that. Was there? Was there alcohol involved? First and foremost, be the first question. Second question. The second question is really just Okay, so So I bought a truck without knowing much about what it was going to take to open it up. And I just think that’s a cool. I love the idea. And I’m excited to hear you know even more about that story. But But I know how I mean, I’ve done that drive from the Jersey Shore to DC. Like, it’s not, it’s not a quick drive. And you know, just kind of where, where exactly does one decide this? I’ve never been on eBay looking for for a step truck, I guess, you know, was it was there something else in mind? Or was it just kind of, hey, this is gonna be a cool, cool idea that that, that you might be able to pull off if if you if you can make it work?

ML

Mike Lenard

6:52

Yeah. So okay, so I was working at a company, a kayak, instructional company that also had a retail store. And it was just like, February. So you know, me and the other managers are just sitting in the couch area of the retail store working on our, you know, spreadsheets for our spring orders for life jackets, and whatever we were ordering. Right? We were doing all the management stuff and the buying, right. So no customer, I mean, we’d have days, not a single customer walked in, right. It’s a small company was actually successful company. But in the winter, you know, that just no one came in, and it was kind of based around also the instructional program that was part of its model. So anyway, so you know, I was just sitting there and yeah, so to be honest, there wasn’t intention. I was looking for a food truck. I expected it to happen so fast, right, like, you know, so there was intention. It wasn’t totally, but it definitely caught me off guard. I was like, oh, oh, shit. Okay. Yeah, no,

JJ

Jeremy Julian

7:57

I gotta make this real because I just That’s funny.

ML

Mike Lenard

8:02

All involved, at least not not. Not during the day.

JJ

Jeremy Julian

8:05

Not Yeah, not not at that point while you were working on your normal gig. Cool. Well, thank you for that. And for longtime listeners, you guys all know that I spent the last 40 years in LA before or Orange County before I moved moved out and I know that that the food truck scene you know maybe if it didn’t start there, it definitely caught caught a lot of the momentum you know that you talked about the the Korean food and I was privileged enough to to have that. Yeah, and then the flip side of things is, is so you get this food truck you get this truck you output it you talk about spending 30 grand to build all of that out. You know, how where why Korean food other than you thought it was kind of a good cuisine that may be beneficial to the to the community in in DC did you learn did you hire a chef? Did you learn kind of kind of where where did that come from? Or was it just you know, I’m figuring it out because I bought this truck now I got I hadn’t figured how to make some money. You know, it was

ML

Mike Lenard

9:07

a figure it out. I mean, in terms of choosing to represent a Korean food, which I don’t claim to represent Korean food traditionally. I mean, we call ourselves Korean ask, you know, Korean flavors, Latin American flavors and textures. And we don’t we certainly don’t claim to you know, any level of authenticity. And, you know, my view, you know, you know who I am now, you know, it’s it’s a little bit awkward, right, because, you know, maybe a Korean person should have represented Korean food and not to say that I can’t but, you know, over the years, it’s, it’s hit me in different ways. But the goal it was really is that Korean food, certainly at that time was underrepresented. And, and it wasn’t just it wasn’t like I was trying to do anything altruistic. I just I just thought it was delicious, and that it needed to be out there and taco thing, you know, to be completely honest, I thought it was gonna make money. I was like, This is gonna be trendy, you know, this, this is gonna be PR worthy, right? And I looked at it from that angle and I, in terms of the culinary things, you know, I was relatively experienced home cook. And since I had this retail experience, I had kind of a mindset where I, I had that sense of humility, where I was like, Okay, I know, I’m not a professional cook. So let me like, really think about this, I wasn’t just shooting blind, like, oh, whatever, I can do it. I knew it was gonna be hard. I had a friend who is a chef, actually, he’s now gotten Michelin stars and stuff in recent years. At the time, he was like, you know, sous chef somewhere. So that was cool. And then, you know, I also had a Korean family that actually was at the kitchen, the catering kitchen, which was our commissary where we did all of our prep and cleaning and storage and restore deliveries. And we did a lot of research and development with them. And, and I learned even more about Korean food. And, you know, I bought like, 10 cookbooks and read them front to back right not to not to use the recipes, but to just have a bank in my head of like, okay, all the ingredients, all the flavors, how they work together. And so yeah, I just put a lot of effort into it. And I cook a lot of different food. I mean, you mentioned you’re from Orange County, I think that Vietnamese food there is unbelievable. Yeah,

ML

Mike Lenard

11:25

it’s some of the best Vietnamese food in the world. I think I have friends that come over from Vietnam, they’re like, dude, sometimes we can only get the stuff here in Orange County, which is awesome.

ML

Mike Lenard

11:33

Yeah. So and yeah, so there’s good Korean food in DC, I also traveled to Seoul, to to eat and look at architecture and, and be there in Korea. And I’ve also been to LA several times, Koreatown is obviously a robust area. And so you know, and also over the years, we’ve tweaked the recipes and added things and, yeah, I mean, we’re really happy with our food. It’s, it’s super delicious. I mean, it’s good.

JJ

Jeremy Julian

12:05

Yeah, I love that. I love that. I think one of the things that you talked about during kind of the inception story is that you hit you know, you kind of hit the food truck craze early. The one thing I’d love to ask you about, because you know, you’re doing this fusion thing, Fusion has been kind of a hot button, you know, a lot of pitches. And oftentimes, you find some of that fusion or stuff that you can’t get in a brick and mortar place on a food truck, and you get to taste flavor profiles, that, that you may or may not be able to do that. Do you? I mean, how much do you think the idea of of food, and you know, even foodies, and just people trying to find the next big thing played into your last 12 years? As you guys have grown? The concept? Do you think that that was part of it? Do you think it was just the the DCC and and the fact that you were there early, and when you show up to a food truck rally, you’re one of eight that people can get, you know, tell me a little bit more about that, because I’d love to, you know, a lot of our listeners out there, maybe maybe sitting in a retail shop going, You know what, or they may be sitting in a restaurant going, You know what, I’ve been working here for 10 years, and I want to go start my own thing. And I’d love to give them a little bit of guidance on why you think that? What do you guys think it took off other than the fact that you guys were in early?

ML

Mike Lenard

13:18

Well, there’s there’s two things and and we think about this a lot, and it’s not always this sexy way to think about it. But you know, there are novelty foods, things, you know, they’re delicious, but they’re not things like every day, every week, they’re not on someone’s routine for lunch, right. And then there are foods that really become part of people’s rotations. And this is something that the team and I thought about a lot over the years. And we didn’t necessarily change the food of the recipes, but we sort of from our marketing, and then our addition of rice bowls and different things over the years. We kind of got to a point where we could hit both, which I think is very unique, right? Yeah. When I think of novelty foods, and I’m not talking down on any of these types of things, but you know, food trucks, a lot of times have these novelty foods, they’re delicious, but you don’t eat them all the time. I mean, a lobster roll or different types of dumplings, for example. I mean, dumplings can be eaten all the time.

JJ

Jeremy Julian

14:17

But even some of the dessert stuff, some of the desserts stuff that I haven’t I have a friend that just stuck here in Fort Worth. And I’m like, like, yeah, that’s gonna last but you know, think about your DC summer. I mean, wintertime, like, you know, she’s got an ice cream truck. And I’m like, I don’t know what she can do for the three months of winter that, that there’s just, you know, there’s not going to be a whole lot of people looking to go have all these super unique $7 ice creams. $8 Ice cream $9 Ice Creams kind of thing. Sorry. I didn’t mean to cut you off. But I think you’re right.

ML

Mike Lenard

14:43

Yeah. So you know, when when we opened our first store, so yeah, we were at food truck rallies, and we were wildly popular, huge. And also, you know, lines get lines, which, you know, it just was kind of like sometimes I’m in like, I think our food’s good. What is it? What do you guys do it like this? Like, I wouldn’t wait for this, like, it’s just food, right? It’s good food, but you know, you can get good food a lot of places, right? So anyways, you know, we really, I wouldn’t say we pivoted that hard, but we repositioned ourselves in a way that you know that with the rice bowls and the salads, and actually, our sales are now like 65% or more of bowls instead of the tacos. And that really is an everyday food. And it’s, we don’t claim to be a healthy concept in any way. But it’s, it’s balanced enough and it doesn’t make you feel super weighed down for the rest of the day, you can eat it at lunch and go back to your desk. You know, it’s just one of those foods that you can eat a lot like a kava, or sweet green or, you know, whatever have you in that fast casual area. So, so we think we really hit that as well. And I think that’s been one of the keys to our, our longevity and our lasting success.

JJ

Jeremy Julian

15:58

Yeah, well, and that’s, so one of the other areas that I’d love to to ask you about since you started as a food truck. And we’ll get into why brick and mortar and I know you guys got some locations, we’ll talk a little bit about what that looks like. But tell me a little bit about the food truck community. Because I’ve heard both, I’ve heard that they’re super welcoming. And to your point lines, we get lines, and if you can bring in people, they bring in people, you know, it’s all symbiotic and and it’s great. And then you get people that are like, Nope, that, you know, I want them all for myself and I’m parking outside of a bar it you know what I am and get all the drunk people that are coming out and whatever, you know, and so tell me a little bit about the food truck community and how you even saw it grow over the over the time while you guys still had the truck rented?

ML

Mike Lenard

16:41

Yeah, no, it was, I was extremely involved in that community and DC it’s, it’s different in a lot of places. And it’s also different in every phase, right generations last two years, you know, of the different operators who are kind of most involved. But yeah, early on, it was like, you know, 1020 30 trucks, we started an association in early 2011, called the DMV Food Truck Association, which is still operating. And we got extremely close extremely quickly, I’m still getting some of these people. Because we were kind of under fire from the restaurant association. Since we tried this new thing, the Restaurant Association in metropolitan Washington, and some other you know, business improvement districts, different associations, were aggressively trying to put a moratorium on food trucks or, or like change the regulations in such a way that we couldn’t operate effectively and all these types of things. And at the time, we were actually only operating through a loophole called the ice cream truck rule. And this is very unique to Washington DC. It’s it’s not probably in most other municipalities. But there were no real mobile vending regulations other than the ice cream truck rule, which means that you can vent anywhere, okay, but you can only vent if you’re flagged down by a customer. And the second that your queue of customers is gone, you have to move on. So at this time, when Twitter, you know, I mean, you know, food trucks were so popular, we were able to use Twitter. Yep. And Facebook to be like, Okay, everybody meet us at Farragut square, you know, it’s 17th and K, and you’d have someone there, and you’d have a line for all of lunch, and then you’d leave, you know, then of course, it still is challenging, because you don’t always have someone there the whole time. And then, you know, food trucks, we didn’t have this issue. But if you have a fryers, and you have to heat up your fryer grease, and you know all the different aspects of food truck, it’s not like an ice cream truck. Right. So it makes it very challenging. So, you know, they, we were constantly getting shut down, you know, not not for health code violations, but just cops were constantly chased out of town. Yeah, you know, and then a lot of the cops didn’t know the regulations, because this is also new. So multiple times I’d have cops be like, Hey, you gotta move. I’m like, No, I don’t. And they’re like, Yeah, you’re not allowed to be here. I’m like, okay, but that’s not what the law says, you know, that they didn’t even know they would just keep were called by a restaurant, hey, there’s an illegal food truck here. And they just assumed this illegal food truck. So there’s actually some pictures of me and Google Images of me talking to police and things like that. So it was all very fun. But anyways, the community was really good. I mean, over the years, you know, a lot of personalities get involved. It’s good and bad. Outside of our business, and, you know, advocacy, you know, types of issues. We did specifically try to go places together, and we tried to grow new places, too. So, you know, there were the like, six or eight really hot areas in DC and then we’d be like, we need more areas. So we would be like, Hey, you, me and you like, let’s go here every week for for for six weeks. Let’s see if we can grow this spot. And if you go with three, I mean, the thing is is that you do you do much better, because it’s like, court everyone can get what they want. It’s not, it’s not as limiting. So I think that traveling in pairs or threes, or fours is good. I mean, at these hotspots, like, you know, there are 17 parking spaces around Farragut square in Washington, DC, and there’s 17 food trucks there every day. Now, everything’s changed with the pandemic, and the density of the business areas, obviously, totally different. But the pre pandemic, it was 17 trucks around that square every day for eight years, you know? Yeah.

JJ

Jeremy Julian

20:33

Well, and it’s, I’m sure that, you know, as it got more popular and got more mainstream, I guess, you know, immune, even Food Network had the, you know, great food truck rallies. And, you know, just everybody started to realize it wasn’t just novelty. It just wasn’t, you know, food at the fair or whatever else. Um, one of the other things I’d love, I want to get into why you guys want brick and mortar, but there’s something that I noticed recently, and you know, you talk about the food halls and or this whole idea of, of having multiple genres of food, when you go there. There’s a place I went to, probably two or three months ago, two or three months ago, I was at a sporting event here in Dallas, and they had this old rail yard that they had turned into like a restaurant, but it was all food trucks that didn’t necessarily move. So they were like static food trucks. So talk to me a little bit about kind of, you know, just since you were such such an early into that as inception, it’s brick and mortar, but it’s coming out of a truck, but it’s not. And, you know, talk to me a little bit about kind of kind of the how, and the why, and the where that might have been, because I know, even in the case of you know, you talked about the guys that, you know, in LA, I think there’s some places now that you can go get that food every day. And then there’s other ones, you get to sit and watch, you know, Twitter or Facebook to go figure out where they’re at. So why do you think that that’s been successful as well, because those lines were there, I, you know, I went went to this place, and I was like, This is really good food. And I probably would go follow it. Is it name recognition? Is it marketing? Is it just opportunity? What are your thoughts there?

ML

Mike Lenard

22:01

Yeah. So I mean, you have mobile vending, and then you have stationary vending? And then you have, I guess, I consider it lots, right. And sometimes lots are activated only certain times. Sometimes they’re, they’re permanent. And, and we have, we don’t have this isn’t actually DC very much. But I’ve seen it a lot of places around the country. And you know, a lot of it is, I think it’s really totally different, right? It’s more like a food court that’s just outdoors, right? Yep. Yeah, you know, the tires are flat, or there’s just a shipping container, right? Like, wood blocks and stuff, you couldn’t move any of those things easily, right, it would take a bit of work to get things moved around in them. So it’s, it’s essentially, brick and mortar retail, it’s less expensive to get going. Again, you know, you’re you’re a little bit, you know, your ceiling is probably a little bit lower in terms of your total potential output. But it’s a really good way for small owners to get started. And it’s a really good way even for, you know, families to have a small concept that, you know, they might not get wealthy, but they can make a good living. Right. And I think that that that’s a good thing. If you have a captive audience, it’s good, right? I mean, we made more money than we did on the food truck at a popular food hall in Washington, DC, because it’s a good quality captive audience. So being mobile allows you to do a lot of things, but it’s very challenging. And we were gonna get into, you know, why brick and mortar? I mean, food halls are large, I mean, sorry, food trucks are heart. So much harder, you know, running a $2 million Chipotle is easier than running a $400,000 your food truck? Absolutely. And people don’t understand that. And it takes an I mean, general managers have to be talented, but it takes somebody with a larger skill set to do the food truck, then. And of course, you can’t pay them nearly as much, right? So the whole thing becomes challenging when when you get out of the owner operated space. And that’s kind of what I noticed is that I had some really good managers, but it seemed unsustainable, to continually have good food truck driver managers, as we expanded, and that became more and more distant because it’s so hard to standardize, you’re going to a new place every day. You have to choose. The health department inspected us like 37 times one year, I mean, you know, people say like the roach coach thing or whatever, but the health department boards all the time. Yep. You know, the restaurant we get one or two a year maybe. You know, you’ve got you need to know how to troubleshoot a generator. You need to know how to troubleshoot a water pump. You know what happens in the middle of the winter? What happens the middle of the summer, you know, it’s cold, it’s hot. It’s all the things And that’s a lot to expect from someone who’s not an owner operator. So I just, I found that it was getting into brick and mortar was more sustainable from a high quality operation standpoint. And that’s one of the other things that I really focus on is I want the operation to be really smooth. And I want the employee experience to be, look, it’s hard work to work in a restaurant, but I want to make it as easy as it can possibly be by setting up systems so that people aren’t stressed out that are working with us. And there’s almost no way to do that with a food truck. It’s a high stress thing.

JJ

Jeremy Julian

25:32

Hit wild. And it’s it’s very Yeah, it’s short timelines. You know, you talked about storage and going to have a commissary, and then you put all that stuff on the truck in the refrigerators. And, you know, yeah, I can’t imagine. I mean, I love the idea of food trucks, I even love the idea of food halls to test different concepts, because you typically are in a much smaller space with a captive audience to your point, you’re gonna be able to try things. But then once you get the following that you need, did it end up netting you kind of what you were hoping for, to be able to give that better guest experience, give that give that product experience to the guests, as you guys grew to brick and mortar is that, you know, and what was your biggest finding, or biggest thing that you didn’t anticipate when you when you went brick and mortar that that was just different than you expected it to be? You know, coming out of the trucks?

ML

Mike Lenard

26:18

Well, yeah, I mean, the sales were much higher. And that’s not I mean, the food truck was profitable. But unless you really hustle, which is so hard. There’s only so much money you can make because you can make money between like 11 and one for. And then in Washington, DC, there really weren’t good places to park for dinner. Some other communities are different, but they’re just okay. But then there’s the festivals and different things like that, and, and catering. And, you know, I try to do like 789 shifts a week, yet, I have a lot of people who no need to know what they’re doing. So yeah, you can only make so much money, it’s profitable, but it’s low volume.

JJ

Jeremy Julian

27:02

Well, it’s low volume, and you’ve got to be working it I mean, you’ve got to have somebody working it and to your point it you know, it ends up being tough, it ends up being tough, and you can only produce so much food in that image, because you only have so many squares, so much square footage as well. So that’s probably part of the other

ML

Mike Lenard

27:16

challenge of Washington DC as the smallest food trucks in the country. Because they are regulated to be able to fit into illegal parking spot meter two meter, which is 18.

JJ

Jeremy Julian

27:28

So did not know that.

ML

Mike Lenard

27:29

I mean, you know, you got a lot of places you have these huge food trucks, DC all has these, like food trucks that are there, not many, but they’re just smaller than everywhere else. It’s kind of interesting. So you usually can’t get more than a 10 foot box, generally speaking, so.

JJ

Jeremy Julian

27:45

So talk to me about where you guys are at now. I know you know, I mean, I love hearing the story. I love where you guys are at. I know that you guys are looking to expand. And so tell me a little bit about what that looks like. Why are you guys looking to expand? How are you guys looking to expand how many brick and mortars you guys have is a food food truck still running? Tell me a little bit about about kind of where you guys are at now. And where you guys are looking to go. I’ve heard a lot about the history and how you guys got to where you are, but But tell me a little bit about about where you’re at, you know, both brick and mortar and any food trucks the left and and where we go and go on as, as you’re trying to commercialize this and make it to make it you know, make it make it bigger or bigger than it is now at least.

ML

Mike Lenard

28:25

Yeah, absolutely. So the food truck closed in 2015. We donated it to a local nonprofit who intended to use it for instructional programming and things like that. So so that’s pretty cool. We opened as many as five at once. One of them failed. This is pre pandemic and two of them we didn’t reopen after the pandemic because they were in the middle of dense office dense areas. And Egypt Lee Exactly. It didn’t make sense. But the company is healthy. And those decisions were all you know, healthy decisions. So we’ve currently have to brick and mortar locations, but you know, we’re experienced multi unit operators, and and we are looking to grow again now. And we are looking we are planning to open a company on store next year. So we’re still willing to invest in ourselves. But more importantly, we just launched our franchise program and licensing for college campuses and other non traditional type spaces. And, and that’s what we’re really excited about right now. Because, you know, during the pandemic, I was thinking, okay, you know, maybe I should get into some consulting and all this stuff. And I was like, Well, what can I can do consulting I’m better than anything else in the world, which is open and run a taqueria and store so that’s what franchising is essentially, you know, is supporting people in opening the concept. So we really view it as a teacher Sherpa type process and we put together we think an excellent package, we hired a good consulting firm that has You know, tons and tons of experience in helping franchise, franchise operators, franchise owner operators. So we we’ve launched that program and we’re in conversations with people now to hopefully open Tucker ins. And, and that’s, that’s basically what we’re working on.

JJ

Jeremy Julian

30:18

I love it. So another question I guess for you, I’ve been in this industry for a long time, Mike, I’ve been doing this for, you know, over over 25 years, I’ve seen a lot of different people do franchising different ways. I’ve got the, you know, the Chick fil A model, which is the, you know, the owner operators got to be in the store, they got to be doing some pretty high volume, let’s talk about what that looks like, versus the, you know, maybe the subway model where you got to have, you know, 15 or 20 of them, unless you want to operate the store every day, but the let them take a full region, you know, Pieology I know those guys, I mean, they would sell regions to, you know, master franchise franchisors, and then they would be out responsible for taking on those different areas. But I guess, what’s your guys’s strategy at this point? Is it you know, are you looking to take people that look like you that are like, hey, I really love food, I love your guys’s concept. And I really want to take it to Columbus, I want to take it to Dallas, I want to take it to Austin. Is that kind of and it’s a one and done is it? You know, is it you’re looking for, you know, huge franchises that have already got 40 6080 100 restaurants that really want to want to take and diversify. Tell me a little bit about kind of strategy and who, who is kind of your ideal candidate for those franchising? And if it’s every one, that’s fine, too. I just, I’m always just intrigued about why or not why I love the why it’s how do you guys plan on going about that?

ML

Mike Lenard

31:41

Well, the answer is all of the above. But we’re also realistic. And you know, as a new franchise concept that doesn’t have a proven franchisee yet. I don’t think it’s very realistic that we will garner the serious interest of some of the master franchisees. So we are planning to start with smaller operators. But even with smaller operators is definitely not a one and done because we want them to grow too. So we’re totally open to, to selling multi unit deals. But But I think ideally, we sell one, one location, but we really have a strong intention that they’re going to open a second or third or fourth location in their region. And then we just signed those deals after they’ve started operating. We want to make sure that our partners, especially the ones that we do multiple units with are going to be good operators that they’re gonna, you know, the first couple of franchise units have to be good. Otherwise, the program is going to break. So we’re trying to find two or three really good partners to get open and then go on a larger marketing spree of like, Hey, look at this. This is great. This is the next big thing. And I really think it is I think that this is something that’s not represented that much in the market, but it’s wildly popular. I mean, look at Gen Z and millennials I think Gen Z food preferences. This is according to statistics the, I believe, number one, foods like Asian pan asian number two food preferences are Mexican, millennials. That’s number one Mexican number two Asian flavors. If you looked at the QSR white paper report a couple months ago about a new like upcoming trends for the next year it talks extensively about Korean flavors and coach Jiang and, you know, the Korean spice pastes. And you know, all these things that you’re starting to see on like fine dining menus that aren’t Korean restaurants, you know, like, Kochi, John glaze or whatever, right. It’s becoming that next thing so I think we’re really well positioned in the general trends. And I think that we could see some major momentum here in the next couple of years.

JJ

Jeremy Julian

33:57

I love it. I love it. Now what is the ideal you know, I guess footprint location is the high density high foot traffic is it strip malls that you know is that the soccer mom that’s stopping by you know, tuck ran on the way home to pick up a couple of bowls for the family? You know, is it suburbia? Is it is it? You know? Tell me a little bit about where, you know, what what is the what is an ideal profile look like for you guys? I know you guys have been successful in DC, which even in DC, you know, you’ve got the high density and you talked about it, you know, the the high lunch traffic I had dinner traffic. Tell me Tell me a little bit about about what kind of cities do you think? Do you think this is going to? Because to your point, I do believe and I agree with you that the the those fusions of flavors are underserved in a lot of communities. And I just I guess I’d love to kind of kind of figure out is it is that the the food court type place? Is it the strip mall? Is that the you know, or is it in some high density downtown area where you’ve got a whole bunch of business users or is it all of the above as well?

ML

Mike Lenard

34:58

Well, it can be all the above and We have a lot of experience with real estate now because we’ve looked at a lot of deals over the years and had some successes and also had some some things that, you know, we learned from. And also the pandemic’s changed a lot of things too, because the Office user community, and it’s different in different places, some places barely even shut down for COVID. A lot of businesses operate differently, too. So if you have Office users in an area that have generally not supported, you know, work from home, then that’s a whole different thing as well. But we we need, we need both, we needed it. All. Right. So our most successful locations are in places that have office and residential reason to come on the weekend. So and, you know, we’re looking at places in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and, you know, Merryfield, Virginia, and like, all these places where there are big office complexes, and tons of residential within the area, where you’re gonna get multiple day parts. Because the thing is, is it’s it’s really hard. Yeah, in the past, we had actually a very successful location that was somewhat low volume, but very successful. That was just open Monday through Friday 11 to four. Yeah, I would totally be open to that. Again, it’s a great schedule for the team. But I’m not sure where that exists anymore. Where that well, that’s,

JJ

Jeremy Julian

36:24

that’s funny, you say that I was just in, I was just I’ve gotten my son’s going off to college next year. And we were in a in a college town. And I was trying to go to this place. And they weren’t open on the weekends, because it was a breakfast place that really served the it was a breakfast and lunch place that only served the businesses that were in downtown in that town. And I’m like, I really wanted to try this place. I was kind of bummed. Because it wasn’t open, you know, on the weekend when we were there for the college visit. So yeah, well, I love the I love the story. What else did we miss my quick? What are the things should should people know about ta Korean and why they should engage with you guys, other than how to get a hold of you? Well,

ML

Mike Lenard

37:00

we’re talking.com and also talk Korean franchise.com for all types of information, generally on our business, and then on our franchise program, then we also have a veteran’s discount for our franchise fee, which is a $20,000 discount. So that’s pretty aggressive. And we’re really happy about that. We just launched that, like a week. What was it a week ago or two weeks ago, Veterans Day? I think it was last week. So that’s a big thing for us. And, you know, we’d love to chat with people about our opportunities, you know, we’re looking to grow in multiple cities, but not not irresponsibly. So, you know, we want to focus on certain areas, once we get traction in those areas, Texas is, you know, we love Texas. You know, Utah, Idaho, Colorado are all good states for us, Arizona, Ohio. Pennsylvania, is, is great for us. You know, we’re obviously in the mid Atlantic. We’re registered in Maryland. So we can support people anywhere. But it’s also, you know, once we open somewhere, we’re going to be more strategic about that region as well, because we want to make sure that we have enough brand recognition in each market.

JJ

Jeremy Julian

38:18

Yep. Yeah, no, and I think you guys are, I think it’s really wise if you have, as I said, I’ve been in this in this business for a long time. And I’ve seen a lot of really cool concepts that that get to three or four of them, and then can’t figure out how to get outside of there, outside of their core market or outside of that. So I love that you guys have hired some people that have that have done that. And I think it’s a great idea for for our audience members. And you said you have two stores for those lazy people. Are they both in DC? Are they you know, so how do people experience the brand if they’re in your region? Because because I think it’s one of those things that once you have the food it’s like, Okay, I gotta figure out how to get those back home because I can’t seem to find the same the same idea. You know, while I’m as I’m with you, I’m not going to go line up and and wait 30 minutes to eat the food at the same time. I know once people experience that they’d love to so where are the two stores that are better brick and mortar for people to be able to visit when they’re in town?

ML

Mike Lenard

39:14

Yeah, absolutely. They’re both in Washington DC. One is in navy yard, the guards Park area in Washington DC which is close to the nationals ballpark stadium, amongst other kind of landmarks right on the Anacostia River. Beautiful neighborhood, mostly new development, but right in DC. And we are in an inline location there. And that’s kind of our you know, flagship store so to speak. And then we’re also at Union Market, which is a extremely popular probably one of the most well regarded food halls and in the US. And we are there as well. That is also a neighborhood that has been totally kind of reimagined by the development company there and it’s beautiful. Union Market also has lots of other amazing, delicious things. Eat. So that’s a good place to go to do multiple things. And both locations have our full menu, you know, everything that we offer. And yeah, we encourage everyone to come visit. It’s it’s delicious.

JJ

Jeremy Julian

40:12

Yeah, I love it. I love it. Well, Mike I love hearing I you know, in our audience are longtime listeners do know that I personally love to hear entrepreneurial stories, I think it’s really fun that you decided to go buy a truck and then turn it into a food truck that ultimately turned into a business that that people are gonna get to experience it. And so thank you for, for sharing a bit of your history and a little bit of your story about where where you came from. I would encourage you guys to go check out Tucker in.com Tucker and franchise.com I’ll put it in the show notes so that people can go check it out. But, Mike, thank you for the story to our listeners, guys. As I said at the onset, I know that a new podcast feels like it comes out every single day, if not 20 or 30 of them so I love that that you guys spend some time with with us each and every week. If you guys have got guests that you guys want us to interview, let me know. Hit me on Twitter hit me on Jeremy at the restaurant technology guys.com Mike, thank you again for your time and to our audience. Make it a great day.

I

Intro

41:14

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